By Galen Barbour
Since relocating headquarters to the Mid-Market area, Dolby Labs continues to give back to the community through collaboration with artists both local and international.
Following the corporate revival of the Mid-Market area, Dolby’s move to 1275 Market (on the corner of 9th and Market) has not been a subtle one. It’s hard to miss the 60” long video wall staring at you through panes of thick glass guarding the minimal design that’s commonplace in tech-centric interior design.
However, what separates Dolby from, say, its neighbor Twitter across the street (aside from not getting the controversial tax breaks to lube its move in) is a commitment to including the community through a series of free events and interactive media studies that not only promote the creative arts but stand a good chance at changing them.
Formerly the home to the State Workers Comp Insurance Fund, Dolby Labs has stayed true to the latter part of the name by converting the bottom six floors (3 of which are subterranean) to a sort of media tabernacle which includes history museums, exhibits, theaters and study labs.
One hyper-interesting space is a full video immersion lab where patients are exposed to certain stimuli and observed by an in-house scientist to gauge how the body physiologically reacts to various media. For example, people that were exposed to videos of fires and flames showed an increase in body and skin temperature although the room temp never actually changed.
Also patrons who are quick enough to catch one of their free events will find themselves rubbing elbows with artists both up-and-coming and established in a space that’s chic and comfortable (think titanium, wood and state of the art video and audio systems with soft lighting). Everyone is very approachable including the man behind it all, chief curator Kevin Byrd, who possesses both an inclination towards the arts as well as a warm and graceful demeanor with people.
This week, Byrd hosted Cinema Magic film night. It included a collection of artists whose career histories range from first films to Hollywood, feature-length productions.
Also spotlighted this week was London based artist Sophie Clements, whose unique audiovisual works recreate the seemingly arbitrary events and materials through the manipulation of time which challenges our perspective of the world around us. Beginning first with such approaches as taking multiple shots of different events, using repetition as a tool to build them together as a singular “sculpture”. Recently, her work uses state-of-the-art effects such as “bullet time”, adding yet another dimension to her array of tools that bend the physical world around us.
As well, Clements brought with her a piece pivotal influence on her work. Guy Sherwin’s musical stairs (1977..ish? there’s no online document of this work), in which Sherwin uses the level of contrast on 35mm film to create visual/optical audio production. That work was what got Clements inspired to think about various medias and how they could be bent to produce something entirely different from their intended application. This piece worked particularly well with the event due to the fact that Dolby got its start in cinematic film. At first, with noise reduction technology, and then later creating the standard for film audio with their SVA series optical audio technology. Now Dolby is pioneering sound systems for Ministry of Sound in London and making advancements in how we react to and understand the visual and audio media that we are becoming increasingly inundated by.
At Dolby, where professionals are working at the intersection of video/audio technology and culture, playing with those limits becomes not only food for thought but a philosophy by which their business is founded.